If you live in the capital, dining out is something which requires very little thought. Not got a reservation? It’s unlikely to be a problem. With so many restaurants in such a small space, you always know you’ll be able to get in somewhere.
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But when it comes to romance, you don’t just want to wing it. And if you are planning a romantic evening out, or an anniversary celebration, then why not think a bit further afield? The South East of England is full of great restaurants, in gorgeous locations; allowing you to sample award-winning menus, whilst also escaping London for the evening. So where should you go?
The Hand and Flowers, Marlow
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Just fifty-minutes drive from Central London, the Hand and Flowers is nestled at the heart of Marlow, an idyllic Buckinghamshire town, easily accessible by the M40. The first British pub to receive two stars in the Michelin Guide, the Hand and Flowers is the brainchild of husband and wife partnership Tom and Beth Kerridge. Despite its culinary prowess, the pub is casual and relaxed, and a great option for dinner. The average main course is £35. Reservations can be made online, and credit card details are taken on reservation.
You will need to plan ahead – weekend dinner slots book up a year in advance, but weekday meals are easier to secure. For those wishing to stay overnight, there are eight bedrooms available, four at the Hand and Flowers, and four at the nearby Apple House. Prices start at £140 a night, and some suites boast Jacuzzi terraces.
The Sir Charles Napier, Chinnor
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A little further up the M40, the Sir Charles Napier is located in Chinnor, just over an hour’s drive from the hustle and bustle of Central London. A regular feature in best restaurant guides, the gastro-pub has one Michelin star, and a traditional inn feel, with wood beams, cosy couches, and a beautiful sculpture-filled garden.
The restaurant offers an á la carte menu, a midweek set menu, and a seven-course tasting menu. The latter is £65 a head, and includes dishes such as seared foie gras, sea trout with samphire, and salted caramel terrine.
The Fat Duck, Bray
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The infamous Fat Duck is just a few minutes from junction 8/9 of the M4, and easily accessible within an hour from Central London. Boasting three Michelin stars, the restaurant was opened by Heston Blumenthal in Bray, Berkshire, twenty years ago. It recently relocated to Australia, due to refurbishment, however it’s re-opening this October, and is open for lunch and dinner every Tuesday through to Saturday.
There is a set, multi-course tasting menu, full of culinary experiments. Traditional favourites include egg and bacon ice cream, snail ‘porridge’ and ‘Sounds of the Sea’ where diners eat shellfish, accompanied by a headphone soundtrack of crashing waves.
A ‘ticket’ to The Fat Duck must be purchased in advance, online. They are £255 each, and will cover your food. Drinks and service will be paid on the day. Tickets are available up to three months in advance, and go on sale the first Wednesday of every new month.
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Offering fine dining, just a stone’s throw from the M4, L’Ortolan is found in a beautiful Gothic former vicarage, in the village of Shinfield, near Reading. It will take you just an hour from Central London to get to L’Ortolan, and it’s certainly worth the journey. The á la carte menu is £58 for two courses, or £65 for three, and there are regular offers, including a menu du jour at lunchtimes, and an offer on weekday evenings.
Whilst the restaurant doesn’t offer accommodation, if you do wish to stay overnight, it’s within easy driving distance of Reading town centre, and is just a few minutes from the Madejski Stadium, which has its own 4 star hotel, the Millennium Madejski.
The Latymer, Surrey
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The two Michelin star ‘Michael Wignall at the Latymer’ is located at Pennyhill Park, an exclusive hotel and spa in Bagshot, Surrey. Also just an hour’s drive from Central London, the restaurant offers a selection of complex but traditional menus. Dishes include Loire valley rabbit, girolles and wet polenta. A three-course á la carte menu is available mid-week for £91 per person. A seven-course set dinner is on offer on Friday and Saturday evenings, at £94 per person, and a ten-course tasting menu is available Tuesday through to Saturday, for £110 per person. Three and seven-course lunches are also available.
If you’d like to combine dinner with a stay at the five star hotel, rooms start at £375 per night, and spa packages at £585 per night. A gourmet package, which includes spa access, the ten-course taster menu, and access to the spa is £645 for two people.